(pronounced /ˈæmstərdæm/; Dutch [ɑmstərˈdɑm] (help·info))
is the capital and largest city of the Netherlands,
located in the province of North Holland in the
west of the country. The city, which had a population
of around 1 million (with suburbs) on 1 January
2008, comprises the northern part of the Randstad,
the 6th-largest metropolitan area in Europe, with
a population of around 6.7 million. Amsterdam is
popularized as "the world's most liberal city" because
of its legalization of prostitution, homosexuality,
cannabis, and euthanasia.
name is derived from Amstel dam, indicative of
the city's origin: a dam in the river Amstel where
the Dam Square is today. Settled as a small fishing
village in the late 12th century, Amsterdam became
one of the most important ports in the world during
the Dutch Golden Age, a result of its innovative
developments in trade. During that time, the city
was the leading center for finance and diamonds.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, the city expanded
and many new neighbourhoods and suburbs were formed.
The city is the financial and cultural capital
of the Netherlands. Many large Dutch institutions
have their headquarters there, and 7 of the world's
top 500 companies, including Philips and ING, are
based in the city . The Amsterdam Stock Exchange,
the oldest stock exchange in the world is located
in the city centre. Amsterdam's main attractions,
including its historic canals, the Rijksmuseum,
the Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, its red-light
district and its many cannabis coffee shops, draw
4.2 million tourists annually.